Non-surgical treatment options for liver cancer

Q: What other non-surgical treatment options are available for liver cancer patients?

In some cases, where there are a limited number of tumors within the liver (fewer than three), interventional radiologist may be able to perform tumor ablation techniques such as thermal ablation and irreversible electroporation (NanoKnife®). Tumor ablation refers to a minimally invasive procedure in which a needle or electrode is advanced from the skin into cancerous tumor using CT guidance. A form of energy is then applied through the needle or electrode to destroy the tumor cells.

Radiofrequency ablation and microwave ablation – These are both forms of thermal ablation. In these procedures, the electrode heats the tumor cells, often reaching temperatures near 100 degrees Celsius (212 degrees Fahrenheit). This technology can also be applied to other tumors, such as: lung, kidney, adrenal gland, and bone tumors or other sites potentially amenable to ablation.

Irreversible electroporation (NanoKnife) – This is an emerging soft tissue ablation technology and is currently being utilized at a limited number of centers. In this procedure, high-voltage electrical pulses are sent through electrodes that are placed around a tumor, opening up small pores in the cell membrane that would ultimately destroy the tumor. The electrical currents are contained between the electrodes and may be less damaging to the surrounding healthy tissues than the heat used in thermal ablation techniques. This also means this technology may potentially be applied to treat small tumors within other challenging or high risk locations.

These forms of ablation treatments, along with chemoembolization and radioembolization procedures, are local-regional therapies to the liver itself and may effectively treat liver tumors while reducing side effects. For some people, these procedures can even provide quick recovery times, fast return to normal function, and may require only an overnight hospital stay.

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